South Eastern Europe is taking Open Government seriously

by John Verrico, Director of Professional Development for the National Association of Government Communicators

“The times in which public policies were created away from the public eye remain far behind us,” said Prime Minister Igor Lukšić of Montenegro at the opening of the first South Eastern European Communicators (SEECOM) conference on Friday, September 14. “Nowadays, government transparency, accountability and public dialogue are the key elements of good governance. They are also prerequisites for successful communication,” he said.

When the Prime Minister opened the SEECOM conference in Budva, Montenegro with these remarks, the energy level and enthusiasm of the attendees was evident in their mutual cordiality, courtesy and eagerness. You would never know the 60 or so participants were from nearly a dozen different nations.

That positive energy and camaraderie persisted throughout the conference. Unlike here in the United States, where it is common for the last day of a conference to be lightly attended as people begin early departures for home, the final event was just as full and the energy as high they were at the opening.

On Sunday morning, September 16, representatives from the governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia came together to adopt the Declaration of the Founding Values of the South Eastern European Government Communications Forum, heretofore to be known as the Budva Declaration. In only two pages, this amazing document sums of the “duty of government communicators to “provide the public with comprehensive, timely and accurate information about government policies and projects.”

The participating nations committed to the principles of transparency and openness; inclusiveness and participation; integrity, impartiality and public interest; internal communications; professional exchange and cooperation; and an innovative approach to establishing open government policies and programs.

The people of this region are enthusiastic, highly energetic and committed to overcoming any obstacles put in their way to doing open government right.

The government communicators were joined by representatives from Cyprus, Estonia, the United Nations, the United States Embassy to Montenegro, the Club of Venice, the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Commission, the U. S. National Association of Government Communicators and the global political policy foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

Prime Minister Lukšić noted, “It is no longer possible to dictate communication. Communication is now about getting involved in conversation, about dialogue with individuals and the networks they build that can increasingly act on stage directly, unmediated by the institutions and traditional channels of communication. This challenge is big and one that will make us more realistic and better representatives of our citizens.”

You can listen to and download the Prime Minister’s speech, listen to all of the keynote speeches (including mine) and view some photos from the event on the Government of Montenegro Opening of the SEECOM conference.

I was tremendously honored to take part in this historic event and look forward to NAGC’s continued partnership with our counterparts in this region. I believe many of them will be joining our organization, reaching out to our members to share ideas and best practices, and hopefully taking part in our 2013 Communications School in Washington, DC next April.

NAGC: Good Communication…Good Government

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